There's something quite lovely about having an oasis of calm in my pocket at all times. I've tried so many apps in the past to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, a disorder which I've struggled with for over a decade.
I stumbled on My Oasis by accident as I was browsing for games to play. It promised a calming experience, so I thought “why not”. Just a heads-up, it's better to play - a word I'm using loosely here - with headphones, as the music and sounds are soothing.
These add to the stark floating island that makes up the heart of the game. It can be rotated and moved, letting you watch as flora and fauna bloom all around. In the middle of the island is the source of all life, a pool of water. Surrounding that, a few trees and patches of grass.
The game is all about upgrading your island. As you play, more plants will flourish. and you can add a menagerie of animals, too. To do any of this, you need hearts, which accumulate overtime or can be acquired via tapping.
Usually I'd balk at an idle tapper, but here, the repetition, along with the music, is very helpful. It removes whatever is causing anxiety from your mind - not completely, but enough that you can start to relax.
Of course, any other idle tapper could do this, but it's the small details of My Oasis which build to a more mindful experience. It doesn't take long for the hearts to flood in, and soon your Oasis will be bristling with plant life.
Adding foxes, deer, and oddball original creatures brings more life. They potter about, looking for who knows what in the undergrowth. As they explore, speech bubbles appear above their heads which require a tap.
Do this and they'll give you a motivational message, “Remember you're moving faster than those sat on the couch,” or “You are not alone,” “we have nothing to lose and a world to see,” or sometimes just “You're doing well”. As well as reassuring the user, they of course give out more hearts.
Boosting heart collection can be done by releasing dandelion seeds which multiplies the number of hearts from tapping, or you can upgrade virtues - Serenity, Unselfishness, Courage, Confidence, Humility, and more.
These all go towards increasing that heart count, which allows you to add more animals, engage in more interaction, and above all, get more relaxded. Animals not only deliver messages, but they play tunes which you can replicate on musical notes across the bottom of the screen.
Starting with only a few, there are soon loads of notes available, and copying the tune will give you even more currency. The real beauty of the app, is how it distracts your mind by allowing you to manipulate the Oasis.
Zoom in and watch the animals play. Tap abilities which come from those virtues to make it rain and produce a white noise effect, known to aid relaxation, or paint the sky with different colours. Upgrade your Oasis and unlock treasures to collect or more animals to frolic in the haven.
Sometimes, the best thing is to close the menus and just watch life move across the plains around the watering hole. It's here that I've found I can escape, even for just a few minutes, when my anxiety begins to creep up.
I can put on my headphones, open the Oasis, make it rain, and sit back listening to white noise, focusing on my breathing and just watching life pass by. Of course, it's all artificial life, but that doesn't detract from the experience.
In fact, the style here is charming and quaint, playing off of bold colours and stark lines to depict creatures and lifeforms in the most eye-pleasing way. That combination, teamed with minimalistic gameplay, creates a very welcome distraction.
I'll admit, without headphones it loses some of the impact, since the game requires the attention of as many of your senses as possible. It's also a little disheartening when adverts intrude on your calming moment, though they are rare and usually signposted.
There's no doubting the appeal of the app and how it could help others when they just need to escape the hustle and bustle of life. It's remarkable that it has actually helped me when so many other apps have failed.